Osteoarthritis, or OA, is the wear and tear of the joints associated with middle and advanced age or injuries that hasten the damage of the weight bearing joints of the body. Half of Americans will develop OA of the knee and a quarter of their hips during their lifetime, so it is a major cause of disability of older people.
There is no cure for the disease, so the goal is to reduce pain and improve function to maintain an independent lifestyle. OA is the most common form of joint disease and is common in the hand joints, spine, hips, knees, and great toes and causes pain, stiffness, knobby swelling, cracking or grinding, and decreased motion and function of the joint.
Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis include older age, family members with OA, obesity, past injury, repetitive use and overuse, and joint deformities such as unequal leg length, bowlegs or knocked knees. Examination and x-rays establish the diagnosis.
Treatment includes weight loss, exercises possibly learned in physical therapy, assistive devices such as a cane or brace, heat or cold therapy, massage, and integrative medicine treatments such as tumeric, glucosamine/chondroitin, calcium and vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and antioxidants. Medications include topical, oral, and injection pathways with capsaicin cream and Lidocaine or Voltaren gel, Acetaminophen, NSAIDs, Cymbalta, and injections of cortisone or hyaluronic acid.
It is easier to prevent joint pains from overuse while trying to finish a task by taking frequent short breaks, than to treat pain that has become severe. Surgery to replace a damaged joint is usually not necessary, but can be life changing when needed.